Sun preps second version of Java desktop

Sun Microsystems Inc. plans to release midyear the second version of its Java Desktop System, featuring new tools for centralized management of client systems — and a higher price tag.

Sun released last year the debut version of the Java Desktop System (JDS), its attempt to win a share in the desktop operating system and applications market away from Microsoft Corp. The software is currently selling at a promotional price of US$50 per user, per year, but the cost will rise to the product’s planned selling price of US$100 per user with JDS’ second release, according to Peder Ulander, Sun’s desktop products marketing director.

While the first release of JDS focused on the software’s user side, version two will beef up the product’s functionality for administrators, Ulander said, with features such as a desktop updates tool to ease deployments of patches and new software. Administrators will also be able to remotely manage aspects of their users’ desktop environments, customizing features and application options, for example, according to users’ job roles.

“What we’re showing users is how to take it to the next level. We got it down to where we figured out users. Next step, IT guys,” Ulander said.

Sun’s goal with JDS is a sweeping disruption of Microsoft’s grip on the business desktop: Sun software head Jonathan Schwartz said in July the company hopes to sell 50 million JDS licenses within three years.

Sun scored its splashiest endorsement for JDS so far in November, when it struck a deal with the China Standard Software Co. Ltd. to provide up to 1 million JDS licenses.

Governments and organizations outside the U.S. have been more willing to publicly announce their JDS interest, Ulander said. Sun won’t disclose how many JDS licenses it has sold so far, but Ulander insists the OS-and-apps package is attracting serious interest among large companies frustrated by the heavy investments required to keep their Microsoft licenses current.

A reseller who has opened a new practice focusing on Sun’s desktop technology said he has a number of clients kicking JDS’ tires. Innovative Systems Design Inc., in Edison, New Jersey, decided to create the specialty after evaluating the market opportunities, said vice-president Gerard McGowan.

“We thought we could do it well, and we had talked to some customers and they seemed to be distressed over a few issues around their desktops, such as level of complexity, cost, and security,” he said.

Innovative Systems hasn’t yet sold any customers on JDS, but McGowan said it has a number of pilot projects underway, and he’s confident that sales will come as customers gain confidence with the software.

One attraction for customers has been JDS’ ability to run on older hardware, he said. McGowan demonstrates the software on PC with a Pentium III processor, which intrigues companies looking to save money on upgrades by updating only their software.

“Our focus has been to get proof of concepts in front of people. I believe that the pain point is enough that our success will follow,” he said. “By the time you go through a requirements phase, understand the TCO (total cost of ownership), do your due diligence — that’s going to take some time. This is really the early point on the adoption curve of an alternative desktop.”

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